Toradora! – Bento no Gokui OVA

With his parents out of town, Kitamura’s lunches are being made by his grandmother Mio. His first bento is an elaborate mulit-level box full of finely-made food. Ryuugi sees this as a threat to his housewifing abilities. He answers the challenge with elaborate lunches of his own, but each time his lunches are countered with superior ones by Mio-chan, but he doesn’t give up the fight, even resorting to cooking meals in the classroom. Ultimately, he gives up the fight when Taiga offers him onigiri she herself made, realizing the war was all in his head.

First of all, yowza, has it been a long time since we’ve seen Toradora! It first aired all the way back in October of 2008, after all. Put this into perspective: that was before the Phillies broke the Curse of Billy Penn and before President Obama was even elected. We regarded it at the time as one of our favorite romantic comedies, and still do. Though it falls short of Kare Kano territory, the writing and acting were always top notch, and we quickly grew to love all five of the major characters as they wove in and out of love polygons.

This extra episode is neither a prequel or an epilogue to the series we love, but an incidental outing focusing on Ryuugi’s self-worth. He’s always prided himself on being as close to a perfect housewife as possible, and it shows in how clean an apartment he keeps, and the fact he keeps one-and-a-half women and a parakeet well-fed. He’ll answer any challenge to his culinary primacy, real or percieved. In this case, it’s the latter.

And while this episode doesn’t contain any insight or uncharted territory (everyone is pretty much in default mode here, before things get all dramatic and serious), it does reinforce certain things we know about Ryuugi and Taiga in particular. What made them such a great couple to watch is that they’re always picking one another up, sometimes without even being aware of it. Taiga helps Ryuugi see the forest for the trees. It’s not about what’s in a bento, it’s about who you make it for. Anything will taste good if it has love in it, rather than selfish obsession…and is cooked properly in accordance to food safety standards.

Rating: 3.5

RABUJOI’s Top 15 Anime of 2011

Because RABUJOI started up at the start of the Fall 2010 season, we only compiled complete reviews and ratings for 15 2010 shows (two more were dropped). We watched series throughout 2010, but did not yet have RABUJOI up and running in earnest until Fall, so we had to approximate ratings for our Top 15. However, RABUJOI has been in operation for the entirety of 2011. We watched and assigned reviews to a total of 31 series, and dropped ten more. So without further stat-ado, here are our Top 15 of 2011, by their average episode rating:

15. Dantalian no Shoka (3.542) – Gorgeous Victorian aesthetic, with magical mysteries and plenty of Gainax weirdness.

14. Kamisama Dolls
 (3.615) – For most of its run, the hero sits back and lets his little sister be the hero…and that’s okay!

13. Kamisama no Memo-cho (3.625)
– J.C. Staff serves up a deeper, slightly darker alternative to Railgun and Index.

12. Usagi Drop (3.636) – Extremely realistic depiction of the trials of taking care of a little kid, without coming off as annoying.

11. Blood-C (3.667) – Like Shiki, it’s gorey, chilling, addictive, and not what you initially thought.

10. Hanasaku Iroha (3.692) – Excellent slice of life, fantastic ensemble cast, charming setting, and a healthy dollop of romance.

9. Deadman Wonderland
 (3.708) – A hellish scenario in which pretty much everything bad that can happen to a kid…does.

8. Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam (3.727) – GONZO returns with a gorgeous sequel that does the original – one of our favorites – justice.

7. Puella Magi Madoka Magica (3.750) – Don’t let the cutesy-looking characters fool you – Shinbo crafts a dark, broody, time-bending Magical Girl tale we can get behind.

6. Ben-To (3.833) – A supermarket fight club where the prize is half-priced food? Yes, please. Especially when the battles are as lyrical as they are zany.

5. Guilty Crown (3.864) – Copious eye candy and tremendous action setpieces more than make up for ho-hum characters and scenarios.

4. Chihayafuru (3.875) – Who thought an obscure game could engender such strong appeal. Some of the best characterization of the year certainly helped.

3. (Tie) [C] (3.909) – When your future is your currency, caution is warranted. Consistently impressive and imaginative.

3. (Tie) Un-Go (3.909) – A classic mystery literature-sourced success story.

2. AnoHana (3.955) – Genuinely moving teen drama about old friends reconnecting, with some help from a ghost.

1. Mawaru Penguindrum (4.000) – The only series to earn a perfect rating for its entire run – all the more impressive as it ran for 24 episodes. So far, it’s the anime of the decade.